What else makes the iPad Pro different from the MacBook Pro (and how Apple can change that)

Last month Apple released his iPad Pro with M4 chip, tandem OLED display, up to 16 GB of RAM and either an 11 or 13 inch display diagonal. In some areas of application it is even better than its predecessors as a replacement for the MacBook Pro; especially in combination with the also new Magic Keyboard. But what else is missing from the tablet to be a real laptop alternative? And will Apple make these changes or intentionally maintain a distinction between the two product categories?

The MacBook Pro can already be replaced with an iPad Pro for various areas of application. But there are still a few points that make you prefer a laptop to a tablet. Details can be found in this post.
The MacBook Pro can already be replaced with an iPad Pro for various areas of application. But there are still a few points that make you prefer a laptop to a tablet. Details can be found in this post.

The advantages of the iPad Pro as a laptop replacement

Mark Gurman provided an experience report on the topic yesterday in his Power On newsletter. The journalist who specializes in Apple has now been using the new M4 iPad Pro instead of his MacBook Pro for two weeks and summarizes some of the advantages as well as a few suggestions for improvement in his weekly newsletter. Below I have summarized it in translation for you.

One of the advantages of the new iPad Pro is clearly the display technology. The “Ultra Retina XDR” display with the tandem OLED construction delivers better colors and a better graphics experience in everyday tasks as well as in media and games compared to the current MacBook Pro. The colors on the MacBook Pro should appear dull, washed out and less bright in comparison. In addition: the tablet offers touch operation.

In combination with the new “Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro”, the scope of use is similar to that of the MacBook, i.e. with a full keyboard and a trackpad. Both devices together are lighter than the laptop and therefore more comfortable to use on the move. The “Stage Manager” introduced with iPadOS 16 and improved with iPadOS 17 as a multitasking option helps, within its capabilities, to use multiple apps and workspaces in parallel.

Criticism of Stage Manager: What Apple should improve

Where the Stage Manager on the iPad expands the possibilities for multitasking (especially in comparison to the “Split View” view with only two to three apps that can be used at the same time), it still holds the tablet back compared to the MacBook.

Unlike a computer, it is not yet possible to work properly on a tablet with an individual number of open windows and projects. To do this, you have to set up different areas with a maximum of four apps each. It's difficult to keep track of dozens of open apps.

Mark Gurman lists three points of improvement in his experience report on the iPad Pro with M4 chip. Because the hardware no longer holds back the iPad from running a macOS-like system (as I said: M-chips and up to 16 GB of RAM). These are the statements on the topic:

  • It should be possible to use more than four apps per area. If this is not changed, then it can be assumed that Apple is intentionally limiting the capabilities of the iPad in order to be able to sell people not just a product, but also a computer in addition to the tablet.
  • The Stage Manager currently runs as an additional layer over iPadOS, which means that there is no access to the home screen and its widgets. The user experience would be much better if there was an adjustment towards a more macOS-like use.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to locate an open window behind the other open windows. If you swipe your finger upwards, the well-known app switcher, which can also be found on the iPhone, opens. But it would be better if Apple would use the exposé as an app overview for the Stage Manager on the iPad - a function that was already available on the Mac in 2003 Mac OS X 10.3 Panthers was introduced.

Even aside from the Stage Manager criticisms, there are other small and larger elements in iPadOS that could move a little closer to their macOS counterpart. In addition, a larger catalog of apps that can be used universally on iPads and Macs would be an argument for using a tablet instead of a computer.

The biggest point of criticism is the small display

In addition to the software solutions, a certain hardware component is particularly important in everyday use: the display. Because so far there is no iPad Pro with a 15-inch display, which particularly deters those users who simply need a lot of screen space.

In addition to using several apps at the same time, this can also be the case when editing photos and videos, watching films and series, and playing video games. When it comes to the display question, the MacBook Pro with a 14 or 16 inch display diagonal is probably preferred. Especially for mobile use - if necessary, the iPad could be connected to a monitor when stationary.

MacBook and iMac with OLED and touch displays

Apple is said to have plans to equip Macs with the display technology currently used in the iPad Pro. In the coming years we could see MacBooks and even iMac models with even better graphics and touch controls.

It is quite possible that this will be accompanied by its own unique selling points in order to continue to separate computers and tablets from each other. The abolition of the MacBook in favor of a mere iPad offering will not happen in the near future.

In my opinion, this is also due to the different target groups. On the one hand, there are computer users who prefer programs, folder structures and websites as well as a freely designable desktop. On the other hand, there are people (especially in generations Z and Alpha) who tend to think in terms of apps and want to use the simplicity of a tablet interface. This does mean that iPad kids have fewer digital problem-solving skills, but that's a topic for a whole other post...

Would you give up your MacBook for an iPad?

What do you think speaks for or against using an iPad Pro instead of a MacBook Pro - or an iPad / iPad Air instead of a MacBook Air? Are there arguments that are still missing from this article? Please let me know by leaving a comment!

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4 comments on “What else makes the iPad Pro different from the MacBook Pro (and how Apple can change that)”

  1. So what I still don't quite understand is the use of external hardware on the iPad Pro. As in terms of physical connectivity.
    It's not clear to me whether I don't have more or better options on a MacBook.

    1. Hello Volker! I think a lot has happened in the last few iOS updates. I recently tried it on my iPhone 15 (which also has USB-C) and it now recognizes external hard drives, hubs, USB sticks, SD card readers and the like. It may be that there are scanners and printers that work on the Mac and not on the iPad, but if you use AirPrint printers, they also support iPhones and iPads. What exactly do you need for hardware on the iPad?

  2. I would like a hub to which I can connect all external devices like a laptop. So scanners, hard drives, sticks, external monitors.
    And on the software side, I would like e.g. B. the SW of Rogue Amoebia also runs on the iPad. Not every Mac software runs on the iPad.

    1. Hello Volker! A normal USB-C hub should actually do the job. But of course you have to have the drivers for printers and scanners. And here is the problem that you also criticize: Unfortunately, iPadOS is not macOS. You can't install whatever you want. That's why the iPad is not an option for me as a MacBook Pro alternative.

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